The Master System and Game Gear both lead a long life in Europe, peacefully co-existing alongside the Mega Drive for several years.
If we include the 32X, Mega CD, and Pico, SEGA did at one point circa 1995 have seven consoles on the market. And yes, that’s as crazy as it sounds.
Something had to give eventually, and as gamers turned to newer formats SEGA’s 8-bit market started to dry up around late 1994. This led to a fair few games dropping off release schedules due to fears that they wouldn’t turn a profit.
Join us as we take a look at eight 8-bit SEGA games that didn’t quite make it.
Dinobasher: Starring Bignose the Caveman – Master System
Codemasters arrived late to the SEGA scene, showing up only after C64 and Spectrum markets had dried up entirely. With them, they brought belated conversions of Fantastic Dizzy, Dropzone, Micro Machines, and CJ Elephant, along with new games such as Man Overboard.
They arrived so late on the scene, in fact, that some of these were amongst the last Master System and Game Gear titles to be released.
Dinobasher: Starring Bignose the Caveman was another conversion, this time from an NES game dating back from 1991. Development was handled by UK-based Optimus, who were eventually bought out by Iguana and went on to work on the home conversions of NBA Jam.
Unlike some games in this article, development was finished and copies were sent out to the press for review. The fact that Sega Power described it as “prehistoric poo poo” before giving it 42% could be why it was never released.
Plans were also in the pipeline for a 16-bit Bignose game, which would have allegedly entailed the caveman riding a skateboard. The ’90s were rad.
Lemmings 2 – Master System / Game Gear
This sequel to the evergreen puzzler Lemmings was another that made it out to review – again by Sega Power – but with a resounding 86% behind it, it’s safe to say that the drop in Master System and Game Gear userbases was to blame for its demise. By 1994 eyes were starting to turn towards the Saturn and PlayStation, never mind the Mega Drive.
Of all the 8-bit versions of Lemmings 2 to be developed, the Game Boy version was the only one to be released. A forum post on SMS Power by programmer Matt Tailor reports that the Game Gear version was far superior to its monochrome counterpart, featuring sampled sound and visuals that showed what the system could do when tickled in the right places.
Publisher Sony Imagesoft also cancelled the release of Hook on Master System around the same time, although it did make it out on Game Gear in both the US and Europe.
Sonic’s Edusoft – Master System
Education title Sonic’s Edusoft is a curious thing. It was never officially sanctioned by SEGA , and so in the eyes of many it’s seen as an ‘unlicensed’ Sonic game. Or an ‘unofficial’ Sonic game, if you prefer.
Development was underway by Manchester-based Tiertex shortly after the original Sonic proved to be a runaway hit, with the hope that SEGA would take a shine to it.
Sadly, that didn’t happen. It was perhaps believed that an educational title featuring mini-games based on maths and spelling would take the edge of Sonic’s coolness. Or then again, maybe it was believed it would distract from the upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog 2, a game that played a huge part in turning the 16-bit console war in SEGA’s favour.
The playable ROM that’s available online suggests that development was pretty much finished. One of the programmers even said via a forum post on SMS Power that it even got as far as being playtested at a local school. We wonder if those children know how lucky they were to get to play an unreleased Sonic game?
NBA Jam – Master System
Iguana Entertainment started development on NBA Jam in 1994 – a full year (or thereabouts) after the Game Gear conversion.
Considering the Master System was discontinued in US during in 1991 (Sonic the Hedgehog was the last official release) it makes sense that the Game Gear version took priority.
There is one single reason why the Master System version of NBA Jam ended up being slam-dunked in the trash, and it’s a valid one – the developers struggled to get a competent control system in place.
The Master System controller had just two buttons when ideally three at the very minimum would have been required to pass, run and shoot. Although, and in hindsight, this didn’t stop Acclaim from releasing Mortal Kombat on the console.
Barbie Super Model – Game Gear
This pretty-in-pink mini-game collection forms a trio of unreleased titles from Hi-Tech Expressions, joining movie tie-ins We’re Back: A Dinosaur’s Story and Beethoven.
Why aren’t we talking about those? Because Barbie Super Model was the only one to be finished. It was merely a conversion of an already existing Barbie game for Mega Drive and SNES – famous for being dreadful. All you need to know is that one of the mini-games featured was based on choosing new hairstyles. Epic.
If you have the burning desire to experience it first-hand, it can be found online.
Frogger – Game Gear
Frogger, of all things, was the last official release for both the Genesis and SNES in America, arriving in 1998 via budget publisher Majesco. This handheld rendition is completely unconnected, originally due out in 1991 – which would have made it a very early release for the handheld.
For an early Game Gear title, it does appear quite the looker, with redrawn sprites and a bright colour palette. New hazards and bonus rounds were featured too, which made it feel more like a remake than a simple arcade conversion.
What could have been a boon for the handheld – which had an unsteady supply of new releases during its early days – was sadly cancelled following on-going disputes with Konami and SEGA as to whom owned the Frogger rights.
When Majesco re-released the Game Gear in the US in 2001 – alongside a handful of Disney titles – Frogger did appear again on release lists, although chances are it would have been based on the Genesis and SNES versions from 1998.
Spirou – Game Gear
Poor old Spirou. The inquisitive Belgian reporter has been around longer than Asterix (1959) and nearly as long as TinTin (1929) but never receives anywhere near as much recognition. We put this down to only a handful of Spirou books being translated into English. Apparently, they are very good reads – unlike TinTin, Spirou is actually seen carrying out some reporting during his adventures.
Anyway, Infogrames’ Asterix, TinTin, and Smurfs games did very well in Europe on both Game Gear and Master System, and so Spirou was summoned for similar platformer adventures.
The released prototype suggests that it was going to be little more than a generic platformer, complete with predictable enemy attack patterns and dull level design.
The proposed 1996 release would have made it a strong contender for the last ever Game Gear game to be released in Europe.
Incidentally, Infogrames’ own The Smurfs Travel the World takes that accolade and can sell for handsome sums due to its rarity.
Yogi Bear in Yogi Bear’s Goldrush – Game Gear
The Game Gear certainly wasn’t short on platformers. This one had something that would have helped it stand out from the crowd: the ability to swap between two characters in the blink of an eye.
Boo Boo could squeeze through small gaps and jump higher than Yogi, who happened to be the stronger of the two. Interestingly, the ability to change characters didn’t feature in the released Game Boy version.
Chances are if Yogi Bear’s Goldrush had been released, it wouldn’t have made it out of the US. GameTek’s other Game Gear titles never made it to Europe.
A playable ROM exists online. It’s a lot better than you may expect, getting more than just the “bare necessities” right.